Civil Discourse is Overrated
So Matt Lewis writes a column decrying, I think, the Political climate's nastiness. I say, I think, because after reading it, I'm not quite sure what he's saying.
Matt brings up two pieces of evidence: Matt Yglesias saying that lying is okay was one distressing example. Well, duh. Yglesias is a liberal and I have yet to read a liberal blogger who doesn't believe the ends justify the means. There is no true objective truth, after all. And, really, lying is fine, if a greater truth is served yada yada. This is not new. Nor is it shocking. Everything from science (Al Gore and global warming) to social science (single mothering is as good as dual-parent families) to religion (Christianists!) to media coverage is manipulated to serve the statist i.e. Democratic good. And to make the arguments, lying isn't just recommended, it's necessary.
Matt then notes a poll by John Hawkins at Right Wing News about the worst Americans in history. Well, that's rather vague, right? Full disclosure: John invited me to participate and talked to me about the poll. Two things prevented me from answering: my internet went out for two days. Also, upon consideration, I was thinking about all the evil Americans and realized my scope and grasp of American history wasn't broad enough. Who, for example, was the dumbass who convinced people that DDT was worse than dying from malaria and by extension participated in the deaths of over 25 million African children? That's pretty evil (good intentions be damned) in my book. I don't know the answer off-hand and immediately. Ugh, I'd have to go look. Also, is a dude who buried grandma and 20 bodies in the backyard more evil? How about Will Duranty who facilitated Stalin? And on and on. Well, this is how my mind works, which is why I fatigue myself and I realized I didn't have the time or lack of laziness to do the poll.
As it turns out, most of the people taking the poll, Ed Morrissey included(though he didn't participate), figured it was worst American politicians in history. Okay. Well fine. I looked at the list of what everyone came up with and rolled my eyes (with all do respect to the fine people who answered). It was just too modern-heavy. History and evil did not begin in the 1930s. But again, I had no desire to go sifting through American's past and taking the time to consider measuring evil acts against one another. I suspect that my fellow busy bloggers felt the same way so went with what they knew. Fine.
Ultimately, the poll was not some serious scholarly exercise, anyway. It was a fun diversion and interesting-inevitably, I wonder who chose whom and why. Sure, there were a lot of Democrats on there. I figure that conservative bloggers weren't paying attention to the intention, but to the outcome of the actions taken. Thus, some beloved Democrat sacred cows made the list. Whatever.
I don't see either of the examples as evidence pointing to devastation of political discourse. I'm also not someone who has over-emphasized civility either. Civility ultimately serves the Left because they play by nasty dirty rules. They've got less game and so they only survive by cheap shots. I've played basketball with guys like these. And there's two ways to go: Be so skilled that you annihilate them with pure awesome skill; and/or, elbow them in the mouth, hard, and let them know they will suffer pain if they try to hurt you.
Think I'm base and crass? Well, I've been blind-picked and nearly knocked out. I've nearly had my nose broken. I've been clothes-lined. Nice does not always win. Some opponents only understand direct, hard, physical contact. And there are times when a foul is not only warranted but absolutely necessary. Sometimes fouls are required to win the game.
And, by definition, a foul is breaking a rule. Ack! We're conservatives. We should be goody goodies! My land! My heavens! A hard foul would be, why, it would be wrong! Not to mention uncivilized. Eek! And the political discourse! It will degrade.
Oh phooey! As long as it's legal and it's the truth, a good punch can be extremely productive. Hard hits just must be used with intelligence and not serve as the whole game. The best players have great game. They win with skill and finesse and strength. They also know how to send a message-both psychologically and physically-and aren't afraid to do it when necessary.
Since when did opponents speak in honey hues and debate melodiously? Please. And as for sounding more moderate, I give you Christopher Hitchens who, with his acerbic wit and fierce intelligence can sound positively delightful while he's eviscerating his opponent. The guy on the other side doesn't even realize he's holding his own entrails until he feels the last of his life drain out of him.
Too many on my own side emphasize form over substance. They'll watch a game that is played technically perfectly and then be astonished when a less skilled, but more fierce team wins.
To make this post even unnecessarily longer, I'll extend the basketball metaphor. Back in the day, Michael Jordan's Bulls did not win the NBA championship. Jordan, without question, was incredibly skilled. He didn't quite grasp teamwork. He also suffered a weakness: Dennis Rodman could get inside his head. Easily. The Pistons had a great team, to be sure. Great shooting. Great teamwork. Incredible defense. But their skill wasn't their only weapon. Bill Lambeer talked more smack than anyone, used cheap shots effectively, and was a flopper-drawing phantom fouls that enraged opponents. Combine Lambeer with Dennis Rodman, and Michael Jordan was overwhelmed and non-stop frustrated. As a Detroit fan, it was beautiful to behold. As Jordan matured, he recognized that the game was more than spectacular, individual talent and gravity-defying finesse.
Here's another thing: In basketball, there is a winner and a loser. There are two teams. Some politicians and pundits get all mushed up and confused. They act as though we're in a system where getting along means winning. No, it doesn't. Getting along means Democrats winning, because getting along means compromising on government programs which, by definition, expands the size, scope and reach of the government. When compromise wins, government wins. People lose.
So no. Time for decisive victory...for the American people. And I have bad news for those decrying the civility in the political discourse. Wait until the Democrats have obviously and completely lost. They will get crazier. These last two years have been the apex, the absolute zenith of big-government policies. When they lose, there will be a great gnashing of teeth. And in their impotence, there will be rage.
Also, another warning. The Republicans have not quite found their soul yet. Time may demonstrate that they do not, in fact have a soul. As the Republicans fight for core values-you know, crazy, edgy stuff like fiscal discipline in contrast to "refining" programs-it will get nastier rhetorically. These primaries have been brutal. And memories are long. And there are those who will want revenge. Let's hope the terror of unfettered Democrats keeps the Republicans focused. But I doubt it will. So expect more incivility on our own side.
Politics ain't beanbag. It's a bloodsport. And it ain't civilized. All the way back, I don't see any evidence that Democracy has ever been a chummy process. It's adversarial. Why? Because the debate is over ideas and the ideas drive policies and the policies do affect us. It's personal. Sometimes, that means it's uncivilized.